A Gathering in Worship Offered by the People of the Church of Christ, Union
Fourth Sunday of Lent 10:30 am
God’s presence is here with us, among us, moving through us Breath easy Breathe deeply
— Rev. Sarah Speed
From There to Here: We Gather
Call to Worship
One: God’s reach is endless.
All: God’s mercy is unstoppable.
One: God’s grace is lavish.
All: God’s love is constant.
One: God’s wisdom is vast.
All: God’s hope is stubborn.
One: God’s presence is here —
All: with us, among us, moving through us.
One: Breathe easy. Breathe deeply.
All: We are in God’s house.
One: Let us worship the One who welcomes us home.
Call to Confession
Prayer of Confession
The prodigal son isn’t given a name, but we know his name. It sounds like ours. And we know his story. It sounds like ours. For who among us hasn’t burned a bridge? Who among us hasn’t forgotten that we belong to one another? Who among us has not ached for home? The prodigal son isn’t given a name, but we know his name. Forgive us God. We want to come home.
Words of Forgiveness
One: Family of faith, the word ‘prodigal’ can be defined as wasteful or imprudent, hence the name, “Prodigal Son.” However, ‘prodigal’ can also be described as extravagant and excessive. Friends, we worship a prodigal God—a God who is extravagant in mercy and excessive in grace. For no matter how many times we run, no matter how far we go or how lost we get, God is standing at the end of the driveway waiting for us. The doors are open. The feast is for you. This grace is extravagant.
All: Thanks be to God, amen.
Singing Together We Are Listening, Lord
This time is Yours. We are Yours. We are listening, Lord. You are here. We are here. We are listening, Lord. You are love – You will speak. You are wise; We are weak. Lord, Your will is our will. We are listening, Lord.
We Are Listening, Lord music
Prayer for Illumination Diane Bailey and Debbonnaire Kovacs, Readers
One: God of open doors, we often long to come home to you, to love, and to ourselves, but we aren’t always sure how to get there. We know that we need you, but the road back to you is heavy with distractions.
One: So if we can dare to be so forward, we pray— reach into the cacophony of our hearts and minds and make yourself known. Quiet everything but your Word for us today. Leave us awestruck. Drown out the distractions. Come as thunder or come as a still, small voice; we don’t care which, we just pray that you will come. Turn on the light. Speak through these words. Find the parts of us that are lost. With hope we pray, amen.
Singing Together We Are Listening, Lord
Passing the Peace
Building the Community: News that Connects Us
Lighting the Justice Candle
Today we light the Justice Candle to honor Polish Women. A photo recently appeared on the news from the Associated Press of a line of strollers left at a train station in Prezmysl, Poland — just across the border from Ukraine.
This Justice candle is dedicated to the Polish women who are leaving these strollers, many of which contain much needed items such as diapers and formula, for refugees who are ﬂeeing the war in Ukraine and arriving with nothing but their babies and children. Unknown and anonymous, these women are seeing a need, imagining themselves in that space, and creatively reaching out to help their neighbors in a concrete way. Justice begins with the ability to walk a mile in another’s shoes. May we all be so creative in helping those around us who are in desperate need.
The Living Word Among Us
Hymn #202 Black O God, How We Have Wandered Passion Chorale
1. O God, how we have wandered and hidden from your face; in foolishness have squandered your legacy of grace. But how, in exile dwelling, we turn with fear and shame, as distant but compelling, you call us each by name.
2. And now at length discerning the evil that we do, by faith we are returning with hope d trust in you. In haste you come to meet us, and home rejoice bring, in gladness there to greet us with calf and robe and ring.
3. O God of all the living, both banished and restored, compassionate, forgiving, our peace and hope assured. Grant now that our transgressing, our faithlessness may cease. Stretch out your hand in blessing, in pardon, and in peace.
Epistle Lesson 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Diane Bailey, Reader
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Children’s Moment Please join in singing as we bless children everywhere:
May God’s blessing guard, protect and guide you. God bless you, God bless you.Our savior’s loving arms be ever ’round you. God bless you, God bless you.
Sung Psalm 32
The psalms were originally musical compositions. During Lent we will pray the psalms in musical form with congregational responses. Please sing the response when invited, indicated by R
Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in God.
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the God imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. R
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the God’, and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding-place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. R
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in God. Be glad in God and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart. R
Gospel Lesson Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
Sermon Prodigal Grace Rev. Kent Gilbert
Kyrie Ukrainian Orthodox Monondy of the XVth Century
I come into the room calculating what I’ve done,
as if hurt could be measured,
as if there was a score system,
as if we could say what I owe in return.
I come into the room
ready to apologize,
ready to make amends,
ready to tell you all the things I’ll do to make it better,
but you put your arms around me.
Grace is the ocean that softens the edges.
Grace is rain in the desert— you’re not sure whether to laugh, cry, or dance.
Grace is a miracle, all by itself.
In a scorekeeping world, grace doesn’t play by the rules.
I come into the room calculating what I’ve done.
You say there’s grace here. It feels like a miracle.
I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or dance.
— Rev. Sarah (Are) Speed
Call to Prayer and Offering
Ringing of the Peace Bell Diane Bailey
The Union Church Peace Bell was created by Jeff Enge in honor of Union Church member Carl Eschbach (1904-1998). A twin bell hangs in Berea’s sister province in Japan and is also rung in the hope of peace for all nations.
A Chance for Generosity: www.easytithe.com/union Our gifts help sustain this particular community of caring by sustaining the building, pastors and staff, and all the materials that make our ministry of healing, justice, and teaching available to all in need. In addition, a portion of our contributions flows out to aid those in need via many external agencies.
Many friends give online, and you can use your smart phone or computer and go to www.easytithe.com/union. You don’t have to register to make a contribution, but if you do, it can make future generosity that much easier.
You can even give by text! Text to 859-448-3403 (Example: Text “$50.00 Offering”)
You can also use US mail! Mail to: 200 Prospect St., Berea, KY 40403
Your contribution is love made visible. Thank you!
Community Prayer Debbonnaire Kovacs, Reader
We have too often been resigned, Holy One, to the worst that we or others can offer. We pre-judge then pre-punish ourselves and those around us. We pray you might heal our hearts with your mercy. Give us all we need to change our resentments into reconciled reminders that Love does not sleep and pain is not etched in stone. Where we need to forgive, help us unclench our fists. Where we have wronged others help us turn from harm and in sorrow turn to each other for the better way. You have loved us and love us still, we know. Teach us this strength that we may be your agents of grace in our time.
Your ambassador and son, Jesus the Christ, taught to us to pray and to reach to you as….
Our Lord’s Prayer
Our Maker, Our Mother and Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
From Here to There
Invitation to Fellowship
At Union we all agree to abide by these principles: “Union Church welcomes all followers of Christ and works with all who work with him, working by love, respecting each one’s conscience, and endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit within the bond of peace.” (Union Church Fellowship Principles, 1853) If this is the time and if this is the way forward for you, then let us join company to boldly and creatively embody the life and ministry of Jesus together. You are welcome to come forward during the Closing Hymn. Thanks be to God for these ministers among us.
¨ Hymn #292 Breath on Me, Breath of God Trentham
1. Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew, that as you love, so I may love, and do what you would do.
2. Breathe on me, breath of God, until my heart is pure, until my will is one with yours to do and to endure.
3. Breathe on me, breath of God, fulfill my heart’s desire, until this earthly part of me glows with your heavenly fire.
4. Breathe on me, breath of God, so shall I never die, but live with you the perfect life of your eternity.
¨ Questions of the Congregation and New Members
¨ Covenant of Welcome
And we, the members of this church, renewing our own covenant to God and to each other, do now heartily welcome you to our fellowship, promising to watch over you in love, and praying that you, and we, may be true witnesses for Christ, a light in the world, and continue to increase in usefulness and joy in his service.
Especially in Our Prayers
¨ Each week we join millions of Christians who pray for one another through the ecumenical prayer cycle and, locally, the Berea Ministerial Association’s prayer cycle. Let us hold the people of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia; and our brothers and sisters at First Church of the Nazarene in our hearts, and pray for them. Please hold these concerns in your prayers, today and throughout the week.
¨ Prayers for all the people of Ukraine for their safety and sovereignty, and especially those in the city of Nikolaev where the family of former Berea International student daughter of Kevin and Carla, Yulia live. Prayers also that the government of Russia will turn to reason and respect for their own people’s lives as well as for Ukrainian families.
¨ All those feeling the oppression of depression and isolation. May God strengthen us all and build bridges to grace.
¨ All those seeking a new and just society and those fearful that they will be supplanted, may God open their hearts and include them in grace.
¨ Our church family members in nursing homes or who are homebound: Alva Peloquin, Loyal Jones, Lois Morgan, Jan Hamilton, Laura Robie, Dorie Hubbard, Betty Wray, Sally Zimmerman
¨ Families and Friends in Crises…may God be present to every need and heal every rift and wound and those who care for them.
¨ JoAnn Russell, Reda Hutton’s aunt, facing several medical challenges.
¨ Children in detention centers, that they may be reunited with their families soon.
¨ Those affected by the Covid-19 virus, their families and friends living with fear, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, may God bring peace to all who love them; and our wider community as we cope with the new realities of living, including the now nearly14,700 Kentucky residents, and 263 Madison County residents, who have died to date from Covid-19.
¨ Sharona Nelson, facing a long recovery after surgery to repair a broken shoulder.
¨ Raymond Binkley, Betty Wray’s brother, aged 94, and in ill health.
¨ David & Laura Bellnier, at the death of David’s mother, Devy. David & Laura’s address is 116 McDowell Rd. Apt. 3, Lexington, KY 40502
¨ Barb Taylor’s daughter & son-in-law, Heather & Glenn Chapman, currently unable to leave Moldova.
¨ Important dates—if we haven’t got yours, let us know. We’ll help you get connected in FellowshipOne Go!
Birthdays: today March 27 – Judith Singleton; 31 – Colin Perman
Anniversaries – April 1 – Richard & Cheyenne Olson